Where is the Garden of Eden?
Brad T Bromling
Eden - Adam's pristine garden home - has been sought in nearly every place imaginable, and found nowhere. Conjectures regarding its location have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. Liberal scholars have suggested that Eden never existed; or that it was in the heavens among the stars; or that the garden should he grouped with the mythical realms of Adantis and Lemuria. More conservative scholars believe Moses spoke of a real place but have disagreed on where it was. Even among these scholars there are some unusual opinions. Some suggest that Eden was somewhere in China, while others opine that it was in what is now the North Pole. One man has even claimed to have found the garden of Eden in the small town of Gaylesville, Wisconsin! However, most scholars feel compelled to pinpoint Eden in the land area between modern Egypt and Iran. The most common options include Armenia, Sumeria, and southern Mesopotamia. Two other speculations have been proposed recently One seeks to equate Eden with the promised land" of Israel, and the other proposes that Eden is to be found beneath the waters of the Persian Gulf. Of all these options, which, if any, is correct?
The liberal view is promptly dismissed by those who hold the Bible to be God-breathed (inspired) and free of fanciful myths. For those who accept that Eden did actually exist on Earth, at least two factors will have to be considered in order to determine its location. First, a proposed site will have to fit the topographical data given by Moses in Genesis 2. Since Eden is exclusively a biblical place, the Bible is the primary source for determining its location. Although a few other Scriptures allude to Eden's garden (e.g., Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13; Joel 2:3), Genesis 2:8-14 contains the pertinent topographical information. This passage teaches that (1) Eden was a region in which God planted a garden; (2) the garden was situated in the eastern section of Eden; (3) a river from Eden irrigated, and flowed through, the garden; (4) the river branched into four rivers upon leaving the garden; (5) the rivers are called by name, and three of them are associated with certain geographical landmarks; (6) also, it may be inferred that the garden's climate was temperate since all types of fruit trees were able to grow and Adam and Even were able to roam therein without clothing. Beyond this, nothing else is said of the location of Eden.
Second, the destructive force of the global Flood must be considered. Such a flood would undoubtedly alter the Earth's surface beyond recognition. One has but to consider the Grand Canyon and the fossil graveyards in the western United States to get a glimpse of the mountain-moving force of the Flood. It is very likely that this event erased all evidence of Eden.
Although some suppose that Moses described the geography of Eden as it existed in his day, two facts contradict this notion. First, the lay of the land described in this passage does not agree with any known location of Moses' time (a fact of which Moses and his readers were no doubt aware). The idea that the modern Tigris and Euphrates rivers are the same as those mentioned by Moses fails to fit what is written of the Edenic rivers. Whereas Moses said that one river flowed through the garden and became four rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers known today do not branch from a common nven In fact, they both arise from separate sources in the Armenian mountains. There is no evidence that Moses' contemporaries know of the rivers Pishon and Gihon. Some assert that these rivers were really just canals or minor waterways. However, in the Bible the Gihon and Pishon are discussed as rivers in precisdy the same way as are the Tigris and Euphrates. The ancient belief that they were the Nile and the Ganges has been almost universally rejected (since the Nile and Ganges do not flow anywhere near the Tigris and Euphrates). The location of Havilab is also a mystery. There is a post-flood place by that name in the Arabian Peninsula, but it seems impossible to relate it to the data concerning Eden. This is also true of Ethiopia. The Ethiopia of Genesis 2 bears no apparent relation with the region of the same name cited elsewhere in the Bible.
Why were the names Tigris, Euphrates, Havilah, Assyria, and Ethiopia mentioned if they were not the same as those known by Moses' original readers? There is a common practice which answers this question. Man often borrows place names from other countries to describe his home. Consider these examples: (1) France and Ontario both contain a River Seine; (2) Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States all have a River Verde; and (3) there are no less than three Colorado Rivers in the world (Argentina, Texas, and Utah). This likewise holds true for certain city names: besides the Paris in France, there are at least eight other cities of the same name; and, no fewer than nine countries contain a Victoria! This was also practiced in Bible times. There were two places called Dan in Palestine; two cities called Antioch are mentioned in the New Testament; and, four towns bearing the name Apollonia existed in the Roman world. It is logical to assume that the postdiluvian river and region names that correspond with those mentioned in Genesis 2 were given in memory of places in the antediluvian world.
River patterns and climate provide no help in locating Eden. Finding four rivers branching off from a common source is hardly an adequate criterion. Likely, such patterns could be found in many places throughout the world. Further, the paradisiacal features of the garden could have been produced anywhere on the globe that God chose. Merely because fossils indicate that the North Pole enjoyed a temperate dimate in the past is a shallow reason to assume the garden was located there. Not only does the Earth presently contain many such regions, there is good evidence that before the Flood the entire planet enjoyed a temperate climate.
Will Eden ever be found? The answer appears to be no. The geography of Mesopotamia does not match the biblical description of Eden, and the Bible does not supply enough data to enable us to reconstruct the Earth's pre-flood topography. The balance of biblical teaching is that man should be more concerned with attaining the eternal paradise of Jesus than with discovering the lost home ofAdam.
Editor's Note: Reprinted from Reasoning from Revelation, April, 1990, Vol.II, No.4,
published by Apologetics Press, Inc., 230 Landmark Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117.